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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

EMPRESS'S FAVOURITE                          229

the Empress's quarters was reserved for him. Sometimes the night
was long and he had nothing to do except stare at the red palace candles
and listen to the dropping of the sand in the hour-glass. Sometimes,
(when the night was cold, the Empress would send him some hot wine.
Any decision about orders to be given was transmitted by the Empress
orally, and he had to put it in writing in the most classic, dignified style
and have it ready for promulgation the next day, .'

There are some eight hundred of these edicts drafted by him in this
capacity, preserved in his Complete Worths. They are sonorous, apt,
precise in language. The phraseology of imperial edicts was usually
studded with historic analogies and allusions, but Su Tungpo always
wrote them with great facility. After his death, another man, Hung,
'Was acting in the same capacity. Very proud of his own compositions,
lie asked an old servant who used to attend upon Tungpo what he
thought of himself as compared with Su. The old servant replied: "Su
Tungpo wrote no more beautifully than Your Excellency, but he never
had to look up the references."

One night, Su Tungpo was sitting in the small hall. He was
thoroughly sick of the politicians* jealousy and had begged to be
relieved of this post. The Empress summoned him to go inside and
gike orders. The young emperor, Tsehtsung, was sitting beside his
%randmother, and Su Tungpo stood respectfully to receive the orders.
After telling Su to draft an edict for the appointment of Lu Tafang

?s premier, the Empress Dowager suddenly said: "There is one thing
want to ask you. What office did you hold a few years ago?"

"I was a lieutenant in an army training corps at Juchow."

"And what is your office now?"

"Your humble servant is a hanlin academician."

"Why do you suppose you have been promoted so quickly?"

"Because of the favour oŁ Your Imperial Majesty," replied Su,

"It has nothing to do with my old self," said the Empress Dowager.

Su made a blind guess. "Then it must be the kindness of His Majesty,
the Emperor."

"It has nothing to do with him."

Su Tungpo guessed again. "Is it perhaps because some old minister
recommended me?"

"It has nothing to do with them, either," she replied.

Su stood dumb for a second. After a pause, he said: "However ted
I am, I would not use any influence to beg for a post."

"That is what I have long been wanting to let you know," the
Empress Dowager said finally. "This wa§ the dying wish oŁ Shentsuag.
Whenever he stopped his chopsticks in the middle of eating, the
servants always knew he must be reading some writing of yours.